Parallels Summit 2012 – What I Want to Learn And Chat About, Part I

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Wow! another year has passed and the hosting industry is not just surviving in the face of the Cloud, but finding its firm foundation at the center of it.
Shared, VPS, Dedicated and Cloud – all of these hosting markets are in transition, and many of the hosting providers that are leading the charge will be at the Parallels Summit.

Shared

Let’s start with Shared hosting, a market I’ve been passionate about since my employment at great companines like ValueWeb – Affinity, (aka HostWay), NaviSite and Verio.  Shared hosting has been and always will be the bread and butter (read: the profit center) for the big hosts.  Even large enterprise hosting providers realize this, as evidenced by last year’s re-birth of HostMySite by Hosting.com.

Beyond the continuation of the Endurance International roll-up strategy and the Vistaprint acquisition of Webs.com, what makes me most excited about the shared space are apps. We are in an app economy. Almost any “How to start your small business” article says to “get a website and start a blog,” and many of these articles mention WordPress, Drupal and others.  With Parallels Plesk Panel and Parallels Business Automation making it simpler to role out niche application-based hosting plans, why are so many hosts reluctant to follow this strategy?

The real key for shared hosts is to leverage their strategic position with small businesses to help those customers not just have a website or a blog, but have a successful one. Today’s “content marketing” and social media marketing strategies are all about driving visitors to websites with valuable, shareable content.  That means getting the buyers to your site, getting them to learn from your site, and getting them to interact with your site. In other words, getting them to trust your company enough to buy not just hosting, but the whole suite of services.

If I were a shared hosting business leader today, here’s what I would ask my team: “what are we doing to make our customers successful”? What additional services can we offer that will not just increase revenue and decrease churn, but genuinely make our customers successful?” Have you seen the current TV commercials for Web.com, Network Solutions, and Intuit, the message is all about the apps and services, it’s not just web hosting. Several vendors can help shared hosters help their customers be more successful. Examples include Mobile website enablement services from Unity Mobile or website acceleration services from Yottaa, my employer, spring to mind.

VPS + Dedicated

Having worked at a large enterprise managed hosting provider (NaviSite) where the average customer spent thousands of dollars per month (and some hundreds of thousands) I am closely following the slowing of growth in “un-managed hosting.”  Unmanaged dedicated and VPS plans had their place in a pre-cloud world and are still great foundations for other businesses, like hosting companies.  But we have to admit that the majority of today’s new applications and new startups are architected for, and deployed on, public clouds of the IaaS and PaaS types.  I want to learn from and talk with dedicated hosting providers and their plans for new revenue streams and customer retention.

In part II I’ll share my thoughts on what I want to learn at the Parallels Summit 2012 in regards to Cloud (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) and Ecommerce hosting segments.  In the meantime, leave some comments below on what you want to learn and talk about at the Parallels Summit 2012!

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